Innovation in the Australian wool industry: a sensemaking perspective

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Achieving the successful development, transfer and adoption of new agricultural technology is a popular issue in the innovation literature. Innovation diffusion and economic theory has informed this literature by emphasising the central role that technology attributes and economic rationality play in the adoption of new technology. In agricultural innovation context, research has traditionally taken a technological determinist perspective, assuming that technologies shape society and that all technological change is positive and progressive. As a result of limitations of the linear, determinist perspective of agricultural innovation to explain how new technologies are adopted and diffused, social constructivist approaches to agricultural innovation have emerged as a complement to this approach. However, a unifying framework of the social construction of new agricultural technologies has not been presented in the agricultural innovation literature. In this study Karl Weicks seven properties of sensemaking are used as the foundation for the development of a unifying conceptual framework for the examination of the social construction of agricultural technology. This thesis is a study of sensemaking in the context of agricultural innovation. It examines how participants in the Australian wool industry make sense of new technologies and how that sensemaking shapes their use of new technologies over time. The focal innovation initiative studied in this thesis is the development, transfer, adoption and abandonment of objective wool fibre testing technologies. This initiative commenced in the 1960s and has resulted in significant changes in the way that Australian wool is produced, marketed and processed. An interpretive research paradigm is adopted in this study. A theory-building case study approach, combining quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis is used to capture the ongoing, iterative, enactive and social actions and interactions that occur throughout the agricultural innovation process. The case study is divided into three separate but interlocking empirical analyses which examine how industry participants' sensemaking shaped their use of wool testing technologies at the industry, technological system and individual farm level. The findings and implications of the three empirical studies in this thesis are discussed in relation to (1) the interpretation frameworks of agricultural industry participants and technology enactment, (2) the sensemaking process, (3) the social construction of shared technology frames, and (4) the social construction of industry belief systems. This study contributes to the debate on the social construction of agricultural technology and sensemaking in the innovation process by exploring the development, transfer, adoption and abandonment of new wool fibre testing technologies by industry participants over time. It builds on theoretical and empirical agricultural innovation and sensemaking research, and draws on a theoretical framework sensitive to the social construction of technology at the individual, group and industry levels. In doing so this study develops the concept of sensemaking in the agricultural innovation process as a way of deepening our understanding of how new agricultural technologies are transferred, adopted and diffused.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008


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